Given the increasingly complex social landscape, do we really need another social networking platform?
I guess the answer to this could be yes – if it’s relevant and offers something the existing platforms don’t.
Microsoft released their new social network So.cl (pronounced “social”) yesterday, just days after Facebook’s IPO. It was developed by FUSE Labs, part of Microsoft’s research arm. Previously part of a research project aimed at University students, it has now been released for public consumption.
Microsoft refers to the network as “an experiment in open search”, and they are insisting it wasn’t built as a rival to Facebook or Twitter. Lili Cheng, who led the development of So.cl, says “The rumors were all that we were taking on Facebook, and that’s not our goal,” she says, “So.cl is really an experimental research project focused on how social networking and search can be used for the purpose of learning.”
However, there are still similarities that can be drawn between So.cl and the existing big players. The feeds and general sharing functions owe a lot to Facebook, combined with the “follower” model of Twitter. It has also been noted that one of the primary uses within the initial study was for creating collages and pinboards of images to share and comment on. (Pinterest 2 anybody?)
It currently gives you 2 options to log-in, via your existing Facebook or Windows Live log-ins – if you try the FB log-in, you get a message to say an invite will be sent by email – I’m still waiting for mine. The Windows Live option worked immediately. However, even when you do manage to log-in– it’s still pretty bug-ridden, so I got a tad frustrated.
It’s not all bad though – one of the more interesting features I found was the video party function where multiple people can view a video, add to the playlist, and comment in real-time. As Microsoft are still insisting that this is a learning tool, this seems like quite a useful feature. However, I can’t say it’s particularly ground-breaking – anybody use Google+ hangouts?
The main premise of So.cl is “open search” – meaning searches will be viewable to other So.cl users and to third parties. In my opinion, I think this is where they’re likely to have the most issues. The site is centred upon Bing, the Microsoft search engine, which is still not exactly known for returning consistently relevant search results. To have a true open search research project, surely you need the search engine to go with it…?
Anyway, to come back to my initial point – is So.cl relevant and different? I can’t honestly say it’s that different, but I can see it having relevancy in the learning space where Microsoft is insisting it’s positioned. I may also change my mind once some of the bugs are fixed and I can have a proper play.
Would be great to hear from anybody else who’s given it a go…